MADRID (JTA) — Spain and Israel at a ceremony in Madrid marked 25 years of diplomatic relations.
Prizes were awarded at a Jan. 17 ceremony to individuals and institutions that have contributed to the coming together of the two countries over the last quarter century. Eighteen people received the Samuel Hadas Award, including former Spanish presidents Jose Maria Aznar and Felipe Gonzalez. Hadas, Israel’s first ambassador to Spain, was one of the key movers in the process that led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Spain in 1986. The ties put an end to nearly 40 years of estrangement following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and nearly 500 years since the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492.
In a farewell letter to the Spanish newspaper El Pais last year, departing Israeli ambassador Raphael Shutz described the sometimes uneasy relationship between Israel and Spain and the problems of anti-Semitism that persist to this day.
"To me it is clear that there is no way to deny that hundreds of years of estrangement between two peoples has an ongoing influence on modern bilateral relations," Shutz wrote. "To deny it is to pretend that a political situation has no historical context. I also think that in spite of positive efforts to close the breach by various means (such as the creation of the Casa Sefarad-Israel), 25 years are too short a lapse of time, a blink of the eye historically speaking, to achieve it."